With Lughnassadh fast approaching, I thought I’d take a moment to post something about the God for which it was named: LUGH.
The festival Lughnassadh is in honor of the God Lugh who was known as the Master of All Arts, and his foster mother, the Goddess Tailtiu ("The Great One of the Earth"). Lugh means “Bright and Shining One” and he is associated with both the sun and, to a degree, the golden corn. Lugh (pronounced Loo) is the Celtic God of creativity, fertility, earth & grain, justice, moon, war, revenge, smithing, agriculture, architecture, carpentry, civilization, commerce, healing, initiation, jewelry, journeys, magic, martial arts, medicine, prophecy, roads, retribution, travel, weapons and writing, to name a few. He is also the Patron of Priests. He is associated with the Ash tree and ravens.
Worshipped as the God of Fire, He also presided over metallurgy, crafting, weaving, and served as protector of the weak. A primary deity of the Druids, Lugh sometimes took human form and worshipped alongside them. He is a wonderful God to call upon when one doesn’t know how to proceed, because He can do or assist with anything. Lugh is often associated with the Greek God Apollo, and more statues and holy sites were erected to this handsome God than to any other Celtic deity.
He was the Prince of the Powers of Air; a shape-shifter. His symbol was a white horse. He was the greatest of the enchanters; a warrior-magician.
His many names include: Lugh, Lámhfhada (meaning ‘long arm’ or ‘long hand‘ for His skill with the spear), Ildánach (skilled in many arts), Samhildánach (equally skilled in many arts), Lonnbeimnech (fierce striker or sword-shouter) and Macnia (boy hero) and mac Ethlenn or mac Ethnenn ("son of Ethliu or Ethniu"). His Welsh counterpart is Lleu Llaw Gyffes, "The Bright One with the Strong Hand".
Lughnassadh (pronounced loo-na-sa) means the “funeral games of Lugh”. But it is not his funeral that is observed at this time; rather it is the funeral of Tailtiu She is honored as the deity who, in Gaelic myth, single handedly cleared away wilderness and virgin forest, making fields for the first time, so that crops could be grown. She did this for the good of Her people – and died as a result of Her efforts. Perhaps it is for this reason that Lughnassadh is also called Brón Trógain (the sorrows of Autumn) in Irish myth.
Trógain, however, carries a double meaning, as it was also the name of a much earlier Gaelic God - the actual son of Tailtiu … the true Corn-King… whose function seems to have been overshadowed and displaced by Lugh, who probably was imported from the Continental Celts, where he was primarily known as Lugos.
To facilitate the work of Tailtiu, Lugh had to battle with the Fomhoire - the Gods of Chaos/wilderness. Together, they tamed the wilderness of the land and furthered humanity’s learning - one of the major functions of the Gods of consciousness, the Tuatha De Danann - so that man could grow and harvest crops.
Lugh, however, has mixed parentage. His father, Cian, is Danann, his mother, Eithne, is Fomhoire.
Lugh’s fame is so great in Gaelic myth that it would be impossible to do him justice here so we will only look at some of his attributes that are relevant to the meaning of Lughnassadh.
Although at one point in legend - for forty years - he does actually take on the role of High King, Lugh is depicted primarily as the initiator, guide, and helper to High Kings. His Divine helper in this work is the Goddess Sovereignty (the Land), who has many names in Gaelic Myth. Tailtiu is one of them, Madbh another. She offers the cup of sovereignty to the High King, who begins his reign with a marriage ceremony between himself and the Land.
Classical observers of the Celts often compared this Divine pair to Mercury, the otherworldly protector of earthly kings and Rosmerta, who was the divine keeper of the drink of sovereignty.
Like Mercury, Lugh is also known for his fleet-footed agility in traveling between the worlds. Perhaps as a result of his mixed parentage (half dark and half light) He belongs fully to neither world and partakes of the qualities of both. It is significant to say that, as we see in the Gaelic legend “The Wasting Sickness of Cuchulainn”, Lugh is also an inner plane initiator into a higher plane of consciousness.
Lugh’s mastery of all arts suggests he transcends His own divinity. He therefore represents the summit of all human achievement. It could also be said that He represents the sum of the Gods’ achievements.
At the start of Lughnassadh, as the corn prepares itself to be cut in the coming weeks of harvest time: the first ceremonial “head” is cut, we return one part, in gratitude, to Tailtiu, we grind down our grain, we throw our chaff to the wind of the Great Mystery and we enter into communion with the Bread of Life.
Blessings to you all!
The picture of the statue of Lugh above is Copyrighted by Paul Borda, Dryad Design
Information on Lugh is from this site: http://www.ceilede.co.uk/